How to Say Goodbye

December 16, 2010

As of today, Qian Lin, Li Chun and Kamei Eri have graduated from Morning Musume.

Having a favorite member graduate is, I assume, a bit like having a significant other break up with you without offering an explanation. You’re left gasping, hurting, and feeling other emotions that would be at home in a country song. For some time it seems as though the world must end. You find yourself asking questions that have no answer- “Did I do something wrong? Did I really show my appreciation for her while she was around? Was my glo-stick waving too understated?” You lose interest in the things which once brought you joy, be it mountain biking or dancing along to Mikan in your computer chair. Eventually, however, you are able pick yourself up and move on. You find someone new, someone who (hopefully) won’t doggone leave you all alone without no thing but your horse, your heart, and your lasso.*

So, what will moving on entail for those of us who are now reeling from the loss our girl, be it Jun, Lin or Eri? How will we move on? To whom will we move on? What does this departure mean for us as fans of Morning Musume?

I think that no one should have to move on from a significant loss on their own. Least of all we H!P fans. There are so many of us, and we’ve all lost a favorite before. I’ve gone through it once already (although not to this extent), with the loss of Yoshizawa Hitomi from Morning Musume back in 2007. Each graduation after that required a new recovery. Below are some of my tips on moving on from the graduation of a member. The list is specifically tailored for those who’ve lost their favorite member within a group, but the tips can apply to any moment of sadness over a loss within the J-pop world.

10 Ways to Deal with the Graduation of your Favorite:

1) Watch their graduation DVD.

This tip must seem a bit  duuuh-inducing, but when speaking online with a few other fans of Yossy, two mentioned not having watched her graduation DVD, for fear that it would be too saddening. While a graduation DVD is certainly saddening, it’s also healing. Being able to hear the last words from each of the members to your beloved, and watching her expression, is a moment of complete honesty between you and her.  It will be one of the most touching, emotional, and final things you’ll share with her as a member of H!P.

2. Get offline.

Immediately after watching her graduation DVD (or immediately after she graduates), turn off your computer and spend a little while alone. Your first instinct might be to rush to the online forums and talk with the other fans about how you feel, but I’d advise against doing so. Give your feelings time to develop on their own, without the input of others. Take a walk, lay on your bed listening to songs she’s sung, or just cry into a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

3)And then,  get online

These are your peeps. Talk to them.

Finished gathering your thoughts? Good. Now go share them! Wail with the others who know exactly how you feel, share predictions as to what she’ll be doing in the future, just find someone to talk to! Talking to others will help you feel less alone, and may also bring up other aspects or moments of your girl that you’ve somehow forgotten and can appreciate all over again.

4) Keep her voice on heavy rotation

I suppose you got the joke? Good. Now stop feeling smug. It wasn’t that tricky.

Create a playlist of all of her best performances/songs and watch or listen to it over and over again. Cry. Repeat.

5)Do not, by any means, become a stalker.

The person who took this picture of former C-utie Murakami Megumi has clearly NOT moved on. DO NOT DO AS THEY DO.

Do, however, pay attention to what your favorite does post-graduation. The H!O forum is a good place to start. Dedicated people will generally post with news of what their Idol is doing with her time, especially if she’s still active in the entertainment industry. This will help lessen the shock of separation. True, you’re not seeing your girl get picked on by Gaki anymore or hugged by Ai-chan, but seeing her on her own is a unique experience that may help you appreciate new facets of your favorite’s personality.

6) Don’t renounce the fandom.

So maybe you can’t BEAR to watch them perform Ame no Furanai without either of the Pandas, or will never look at MM the same without Kamei around to be completely bonkers. But you didn’t just love the group for that one girl, right? This is the perfect chance to remember what it was about the group that first got you hooked, to re-watch the old concerts, and to get to know the others members… Which leads me to the next bit of advice…

7) Pick a new favorite.

Maybe she doesn’t sing like Lin. Maybe she doesn’t steal bananas like Jun. Maybe she doesn’t laugh like Eri. But there’s always been one girl in the group who has caught your eye, a member to whom you’ve just not had the time to give your attention in between looking at your favorite girl’s photobooks. Well, now’s your chance. Don’t think of this as replacing the girl who graduated. That’s not possible. But don’t let your girl’s graduation stop you from learning to love someone else.

8. Do not be afraid to cry

However, try not to hyperventilate like poor Non here.

“I actually cried!” “OMG, I had to try so hard not to start bawling.” “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but…” Comments on graduation concerts tend to follow this vein. What in the world is so wrong with crying?  Your girl certainly will be. Who can forget that moment during Nacchi’s graduation when Nono simply could not speak for sobbing? The audience would periodically let out cries of “ganbare,” but she barely managed to force out a word or two, and had to be supported by Iida and Miki. The poor girl was so upset that she had to sit backstage during the next few songs.   She had everyone’s love and support the entire time; And you can bet that the fans never felt closer to Goto Maki than when she broke down and cried while singing “Namida no Hoshi.” Crying is healing, and sharing your tears with your favorite as she prepares to move on to the next stage in her life can be cathartic.

9. She’s moving on…

If this picture still makes you howl with despair, you really needed this post.

…So you should, too. Don’t dwell on her graduation for months on end. I don’t mean to say that you should forget all about her. I for one am still guilty of the occasional outburst of “I MISS MAIHA!” However, a graduation isn’t (quite) the end of the world. Don’t post on every single photo of hers with an “Oh god, why did she have to leave?!?” for years to come.** It’s just not healthy.

10. But don’t move on too soon

You don’t need to wake up the morning after her graduation and bounce out of bed, bright eyed and bushy-wotaed. Take your time to miss her. She was important to you, after all.

That wraps up my ten tips. Needless to say, there are more than ten ways to move on. I’d love to see some of your coping strategies. How did you feel when Koharu graduated? Were you around for the Konno-Ogawa double graduation? Did the mass Elder-club exodus make you want to tear your hair? How did you comfort yourself?

Graduations (and disbandings) are, without a doubt, the most dreaded moment within the J-pop fandom. One can hear wota groaning and wailing in the recordings of this most recent graduation announcement, and when the crowd was panned during Goto’s graduation from H!P, tears were flowing. People were shocked (and some are still reeling), when SweetS disbanded. But the graduation experience is part of being a fan. It is always sad, but it isn’t entirely a negative experience. When a favorite graduates we get to see her move on to the next phase of her life and career, and her absence allows us to explore the virtues and vices of the remaining girls. The experience is bitter, but we are left cleansed, and I like to think refreshed. It takes time, but in the end, a graduation is a thing to be celebrated as well as feared.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to some of Linlin’s solos… and cry.

* Does it show that I never listen to country? I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard that all country songs must make reference to a pet, a heart (achey-breaky or otherwise) and/or being left by a loved one. This was the best I could do.

** Is it just me, or do MeguKami fans seem to do that more than anyone else? Is it the abrupt nature of her “graduation?” Or the fact that it reeks of un-surfaced scandal? I tend to pick on them a bit, so I’m sorry, MeguKami wota.

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